Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The lone holdout

There are 15 county criminal courts in Harris County and in 14 of them a motorist accused of driving while intoxicated who has an otherwise clean record is eligible for the Harris County DA's Office DIVERT program. However, if you find yourself in County Criminal Court at Law No. 2, DIVERT is not an option.

Judge Bill Harmon does not allow a defendant in his court to enter the DIVERT program. Why? Because he has concerns that the program is not legal. On this, Judge Harmon and I are in full agreement. As I have pointed out in the past, in order to enter the DIVERT program, a defendant must enter a guilty plea before the court. Then, after completing probation and treatment (if necessary), the case is dismissed.

Sounds a lot like deferred adjudication - which the state legislature said is not allowed for motorists accused of driving while intoxicated.
“All 14 of my colleagues are doing it. And certainly I could have gone along with this illegal program, and if I had, you wouldn't be sitting down here today." Judge Bill Harmon, Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 2
While I believe Judge Harmon is correct in his assessment of the DIVERT program, the result is that some motorists are treated differently due to the luck of the draw.

On the one hand, I commend Judge Harmon for standing up for his principles and for acknowledging what we all know to be true, on the other hand, there's something that just isn't right about one policy for defendants in 14 courts and another policy for defendants in one court.

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